In Catch That Chicken!, Atinuke (Anna Hibiscus series) combines irresistible characters with an engaging narrative and sets her age-appropriate tale of self-empowerment in a cozy compound in West Africa.
Lami's compound is busy, with Sister Sadia, who is "speedy at spelling"; friend Fatima, who is "fast at braiding hair"; and big brother Bilal, who is "brave with bulls." But when it comes to catching chickens, Lami is speedier, faster and braver than anyone. In fact, Lami is "the best chicken catcher in the village." That is, until the day Lami chases a chicken right up the trunk of a huge baobab tree, moving so quickly she falls out. With her ankle sprained "so badly it puffs up like the neck of an angry lizard," Lami is certain that if "she can't chase" and "she can't climb," then "she definitely can't catch chickens." Luckily, she's got Nana Nadia close by to suggest that "it's not quick feet that catches chickens--it's quick thinking."
Atinuke's well-paced text uses repetition, alliteration and seamless bilingual text to draw her audience into the story. It's nicely paired with Atinuke's previous illustrative partner (B Is for Baby; Baby Goes to Market) Angela Brooksbank's brightly colored, patterned and energetic mixed-media illustrations, which convey a strong sense of life within the bustling compound. Lami, always bubbling with energy, is especially appealing. Her reaction to adversity is a great lesson for all: with encouragement and the will to try, Lami is able to figure out "the best" way to keep doing what she loves. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI